This prominent scientist says life is meaningless… and he’s serious |314|

Why should the fact that you might come from very different and irreconcilable views render impossible coherent discussion? I'm not saying you won't have to work at it a bit, but aren't those among the most important conversations to have, if one wants to avoid the drift towards fundamentalism?

Also, isn't that a lot of baggage to be loading onto one metaphor?

I know Stephen claims not to be a materialist - but to my perception he is
He just replaces the word matter with the word information
The comments about meat and juicy etc imply the belief that he is a biological or meat robot
as Alex would put it
I hold to the independent nature of consciousness and the radical subjectivity of human knowing
whereas Stephen seems to imply an objective monist ontology and epistemology

I presume you listen to the Skeptiko interviews?
If you do, you know how discussion with materialists on the matter of consciousness (and thus knowing) generally go
 
Interesting review of Sean Carrol's book from Peter Woit. I believe Peter, like Sean, is an atheist, though of a different variety I suppose, based on his review.

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=8424

Some snippets:

The largest part of the book (from my rather quick read) is a very conventional argument for science as opposed to religion, of a sort that has existed for centuries, been common since the 19th century, and very common in recent years as part of the “New Atheism”. One reason I can’t focus on this is that I just don’t see any evidence that science needs this sort of defense against religion, it seems to me to be doing extremely well without it. Our culture valorizes science and scientists very highly these days (much more so than ministers or theologians), and I just don’t see what some other people see as a need for books arguing the case for science.

The really striking thing about this particular book though is that Carroll has a much more unusual and ambitious goal than just arguing for science. He wants to promote what he calls “poetic naturalism“, which as far as I can tell is a term of his own invention (“naturalism” by itself is now a conventional term for the “science, not religion” viewpoint). Beyond the “science instead of religion” idea though, “poetic naturalism” seems to me to simultaneously lack any real content, while claiming to address the deepest human questions of meaning and morality.
My own point of view on all of this is that I just don’t think theoretical physicists have anything useful to tell the average person about meaning and morality, other than that it’s a mistake to search for it in our discoveries about physics. I don’t understand why we’re increasingly seeing texts promoting physics as inspiration for how to live
I don’t think a book like this has much hope of speaking to such people, to their view of science or their experience of religion. Scientists who want more respect should stick to what they know, and avoid the temptation of “science-splaining” to the public. In particular they should avoid preaching about meaning, morality, and other issues that they know no more about than anyone else.
 
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I hold to the independent nature of consciousness and the radical subjectivity of human knowing
whereas Stephen seems to imply an objective monist ontology and epistemology
Thanks for the position statement!. Your evaluation of what you believe are warranted philosophical issues arrives at a normative worldview among the artsy type. It surely is as good as any; and better than most. Radical subjectivity doesn't sound measurable, so not compatible with my pragmatic cup-o-tea.

Modern science, which includes science tools to measure formal information and evaluate logical processes, opens-up methods for analysis, not available in the past. I am not pushing a stance, just defining what philosophical stance I have taken to prevent bias. My goal is to present an active viewpoint for the methodology of examining natural processes with data from 2 or more levels of abstraction (LoA). There are levels of math analysis of physical data. What is "new" is the levels of data analysis regarding the presence of formal information and the natural logic with which the universe operates. To understand the hard problem we need the second category of relations to be mapped as well as the first. Science must continue on this path of measuring the empirical nature of information systems as a compliment to physical data analysis.

Hence, my strong support for G. Tononi et all, in their research on the integration of bio-information.

That you cannot see IR (informational realism) as a direct contradiction to Materialism, is simply because you have not read about the subject.
What is the ultimate nature of reality? This paper defends an answer in terms of informational realism (IR). It does so in three stages. First, it is shown that, within the debate about structural realism (SR), epistemic (ESR) and ontic (OSR) structural realism are reconcilable by using the methodology of the levels of abstractions. It follows that OSR is defensible from a structuralist-friendly position. Second, it is argued that OSR is also plausible, because not all related objects are logically prior to all relational structures. The relation of difference is at least as fundamental as (because constitutive of) any relata. Third, it is suggested that an ontology of structural objects for OSR can reasonably be developed in terms of informational objects, and that Object Oriented Programming provides a flexible and powerful methodology with which to clarify and make precise the concept of “informational object”. The outcome is informational realism, the view that the world is the totality of informational objects dynamically interacting with each other. - Floridi
Sean Carroll sees a world of particles and believes they have special "matter category" properties that magically make the world around them orderly. In the context of this intuition about reality, are all arguments for Physicalism.

I see a world of physical objects of all scales; and in addition, probable informational objects, supporting the meaningful interaction of a Participatory Universe (Wheeler). These categories and entities are MEASURABLE AND PREDICTABLE. Living things naturally interact in all the environments of activity looking for the resources of energy, structure, knowledge and understanding. It's just there are no "energy" sources in the informational environment. or ideas (like memory traces) in the physical environment. This sorting leads away from theory. The method gets down to empirical (or quasi-empriical) explorations revealing how nature weaves mass, force, bytes and deep meaning into the universe's many environments.
 
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Thanks for the position statement!. Your evaluation of what you believe are warranted philosophical issues arrives at a normative worldview among the artsy type. It surely is as good as any; and better than most. Radical subjectivity doesn't sound measurable, so not compatible with my pragmatic cup-o-tea.

Modern science, which includes science tools to measure formal information and evaluate logical processes, opens-up methods for analysis, not available in the past. I am not pushing a stance, just defining what philosophical stance I have taken to prevent bias. My goal is to present an active viewpoint for the methodology of examining natural processes with data from 2 or more levels of abstraction (LoA). There are levels of math analysis of physical data. What is "new" is the levels of data analysis regarding the presence of formal information and the natural logic with which the universe operates. To understand the hard problem we need the second category of relations to be mapped as well as the first. Science must continue on this path of measuring the empirical nature of information systems as a compliment to physical data analysis.

Hence, my strong support for G. Tononi et all, in their research on the integration of bio-information.

That you cannot see IR (informational realism) as a direct contradiction to Materialism, is simply because you have not read about the subject.

Sean Carroll sees a world of particles and believes they have special "matter category" properties that magically make the world around them orderly. In the context of this intuition about reality, are all arguments for Physicalism.

I see a world of physical objects of all scales; and in addition, probable informational objects, supporting the meaningful interaction of a Participatory Universe (Wheeler). These categories and entities are MEASURABLE AND PREDICTABLE. Living things naturally interact in all the environments of activity looking for the resources of energy, structure, knowledge and understanding. It's just there are no "energy" sources in the informational environment. or ideas (like memory traces) in the physical environment. This sorting leads away from theory. The method gets down to empirical (or quasi-empriical) explorations revealing how nature weaves mass, force, bytes and deep meaning into the universe's many environments.

Hi Stephen
Thank you for your response
Some queries and reflections from my perspective

You wrote:
"Radical subjectivity doesn't sound measurable, so not compatible with my pragmatic cup-o-tea"

Quite right; the knowing subject is not directly objectifiable or measurable
However, it is the knowing subject who objectifies and measures and is pragmatic

You wrote
"What is "new" is the levels of data analysis regarding the presence of formal information and the natural logic with the universe operates"

Do you mean to say that formal logic is present in nature itself; and is how nature functions?

Floridi wrote:
" The outcome is informational realism, the view that the world is the totality of informational objects dynamically interacting with each other."

My point is that objects may be construed as information by a knower; ie as having informational significance and function in the knower's system of thinking about and modelling the world of objects
But I would argue that the world of objects is not ontologically information; in a similar way that I would argue that the sky is not ontologically blue; or that grass is not ontologically green
Blue and green are subjective experiences of a knower; they are epistemological - not ontological
Information in its normal use denotes meaning or significance in the experience of a knowing subject

The problem I see in your philosophy of informational realism is that it projects the informational structure of knowing (epistemology) as the objective ontological structure of the world
In my view this is a very basic and common error of human thinking
Mistaking the map for the territory and metaphors for realities is perhaps the most common error in human intellectual endeavour

You wrote:
"The method gets down to empirical (or quasi-empirical) explorations revealing how nature weaves mass, force, bytes and deep meaning into the universe's many environments."

This sentence displays the fundamental confusion I see in your philosophy
You weave together epistemological and ontological categories as if they are equivalent
 
The problem I see in your philosophy of informational realism is that it projects the informational structure of knowing (epistemology) as the objective ontological structure of the world
Maybe this is another word for what I think you're getting at, or at least a related critique. Reification: To regard or treat (an abstraction) as if it had concrete or material existence.
 
Anyone claiming to know the meaning of life is incredibly insecure.
Because the "secure" in life know from science there is no "meaning of life"? I respectfully disagree.

In fact - the bio-universe that science can observe - is focused on meaningful activity. Away from metaphysical teleology - there is a fascinating biology of life, whereby logical responses to life situations drive survival. This objective activity can be measured and analyzed as teleonomic processes. This activity is well-explored by Bayesian analysis. Sean Carroll has in his vision of a world of particles and he imagines that particles don't care as they are the only source of all meaning.

I see a universe that had probability waves prior, during and after the big bang. Meaningful probabilities are an ontological building block of reality, as much as the laws of physics, (which themselves are structured information). Living things are more than hip-deep in informational environments, changing real-world probabilities through their understanding of nature.
 
Interesting review of Sean Carrol's book from Peter Woit. I believe Peter, like Sean, is an atheist, though of a different variety I suppose, based on his review.

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=8424

Some snippets:
Nice... but I think he misses the point. Physics can only "stick to it's knitting" if they choose to ignore everything we now know about consciousness. he's just advocating -- shut up and calculate.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Because the "secure" in life know from science there is no "meaning of life"? I respectfully disagree.

In fact - the bio-universe that science can observe - is focused on meaningful activity. Away from metaphysical teleology - there is a fascinating biology of life, whereby logical responses to life situations drive survival. This objective activity can be measured and analyzed as teleonomic processes. This activity is well-explored by Bayesian analysis. Sean Carroll has in his vision of a world of particles and he imagines that particles don't care as they are the only source of all meaning.

I see a universe that had probability waves prior, during and after the big bang. Meaningful probabilities are an ontological building block of reality, as much as the laws of physics, (which themselves are structured information). Living things are more than hip-deep in informational environments, changing real-world probabilities through their understanding of nature.
So, if I understand this correctly, there is potential for individual meaning? This is different than life being meaningless but also not bound to a specific top-down teleological scheme from on high?

This gets us to an interesting question though - can I have a meaningful life if there is a teleology to the universe? McKenna once said that if we knew the Meaning of Life we'd be enslaved by it, and it would choke our spirits.

My interest lies in a kind of soil in which everyone can find their own meaning....though perhaps this desire for liberation does require the universe itself be meaningless?

 
This is just an ad-hominem. It might be worth advancing some serious arguments instead of relying on abuse. It hardly strengthens your position.
That was a serious statement. I am a psychiatric social worker and I truly believe that anyone who claims to know the meaning of life is incredibly insecure.
 
Because the "secure" in life know from science there is no "meaning of life"? I respectfully disagree.
Because the secure know that we don't know jack shit about what the meaning of life is, and anyone who tells you they do know is selling you something or is so freakin insecure about their existence that they feel the need to claim stuff that is well above their pay grade.
 
So, if I understand this correctly, there is potential for individual meaning? This is different than life being meaningless but also not bound to a specific top-down teleological scheme from on high?

This gets us to an interesting question though - can I have a meaningful life if there is a teleology to the universe? McKenna once said that if we knew the Meaning of Life we'd be enslaved by it, and it would choke our spirits.

My interest lies in a kind of soil in which everyone can find their own meaning....though perhaps this desire for liberation does require the universe itself be meaningless?

It would, at the very least, take all the fun out of the mystery. And would that make us any different than robots? We would have a "spiritual function" to fulfill according to a directive and would strive to meet it. Creativity, independence, exploration... All gone down the drain.
 
Because the secure know that we don't know jack shit about what the meaning of life is, and anyone who tells you they do know is selling you something or is so freakin insecure about their existence that they feel the need to claim stuff that is well above their pay grade.
That knife cuts both ways, you know?
 
You know what, don't bother responding. I'm sure the meaning of life is "love" or something similar, right? I'm not sure why I checked the site again, but it is nothing but frustrating for me. I believe in psi and the afterlife but I don't believe in skeptiko or the direction alex has taken things the past few years and checking in does more harm than good for me. Apologies for anyone I offended. Cheers.
 
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